In Focus – The Rt. Hon Sir James Munby, President Of The Family Division

Sir James MunbySir James Munby has called the lack of court interpreters in an adoption case “unacceptable”.

The President of the Family Division adjourned the case in which two Slovak speaking parents were seeking leave to oppose the adoption of their two children.

Capita provides business services to both the public and private sectors. Their Justice and Secure Services division is the main source of interpreters for the English and Welsh courts. It is not the first time that the company has been criticised for under performance, delays and inefficiency.

It was reported that the courts have ordered Capita to pay £7,229 to cover the cost of interpreters failing to show up in court as requested. The BBC reported that the firm experienced substantial loss of payments in penalties for its poor performance with regard to court interpreters between May 2012 and November 2013.

Sir James Munby defended his decision to adjourn the case, saying:

“Anyone tempted to suggest that an adjournment was not necessary might care to consider what our reaction would be if an English parent before a foreign court in similar circumstances was not provided with an interpreter.

“Whether the underlying causes are to be found in the nature of the contract between the MoJ and [HM Courts & Tribunals Service] or whoever and Capita, or in the nature of the contract between Capita and the interpreters it retains, or in the sums paid respectively to Capita and its interpreters, or in an inadequate supply of interpreters… I do not know. We need to find out.”

Thankfully, interpreters were provided on time when the court reconvened. The parents wanted to seek leave to oppose the adoption of their two boys on the ground that their approved adopted parents were in a same-sex relationship, which they argued was not compatible with the children’s Roman Catholic heritage.

The President rejected their application, saying that the fact that the children had been placed for adoption with a same-sex couple did not constitute a sufficient change in circumstances to justify an objection by the parents under the Adoption and Children’s Act 2002.

What were the reasons for refusing permission to appeal the adoption?

Sir James Munby explained his decision not to grant permission to appeal, by saying:

“I do not see how this can be described as a change in circumstances. There is nothing in all the material I have seen to suggest that the children’s placement with the prospective adopters was inappropriate or wrong, let alone irrational or unlawful, having regard to the principles that the local authority had to apply…Nor… has it been demonstrated that the placement was of a kind not contemplated by Theis J. On the contrary, Theis J expressly held, as we have seen, that the children’s welfare needs “outweigh” the impact that adoption would have on their Roma identity.

“Of course, any judge should have a decent respect to the opinions of those who come here from a foreign land, particularly if they have come from another country within the European Union….But the fact is, the law is, that, at the end of the day, I have to judge matters according to the law of England and by reference to the standards of reasonable men and women in contemporary English society. The parents’ views, whether religious, cultural, secular or social, are entitled to respect but cannot be determinative. They have made their life in this country and cannot impose their own views either on the local authority or on the court.”





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